Ontario Muslim Helpline Received 2000 Calls Last Year

TORONTO – A Muslim helpline in Canada received 2000 calls from Ontario residents in 2017, a figure expected to double in 2018.

“People can call in and speak to a [Muslim peer counselor] who they may not know, but may have a better understanding of the background of where they’re coming from culturally and religiously,” said outreach manager Huma Saeedi, CBC reported on Sunday, May 27.

“It’s really important in today’s day and age with youth that are struggling with their identity being Canadian and Muslim,” she said.

Naseeha, the Toronto-area helpline meaning ‘advice’ in Arabic, has received about 18,000 calls.

The calls basically revolve around societal pressure, Islamophobia, and addictions.

Ontario youth are also calling for spiritual and psychological help, specifically related to mental health, faith, and sexual orientation.

In the last year, Saeedi said most callers have been between 21 and 30 years old.

Yet, mental health continues to be a highly stigmatized topic in Muslim households, said Saeedi, who also works for the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health.

“There’s still a lot of taboo,” she said, adding that the issues Muslim youth face are similar to the ones non-Muslims face.

“The issues are just magnified when you’re part of a smaller, marginalized community where often the parents may not have that support available to provide to their children,” she said.

“Whether it be due to limited understanding of what mental health is about or limited time because they’re immigrant families.”

In tackling with questions received from the Muslim youth, the helpline’s counselors refer religious issues to religious leaders or institutions.

“We’re there not to provide any type of judgment, not to give any opinions from our own selves, or what we believe the religion may or may not say about it,” she said.

“We’re there for them to provide them support through what they’re struggling with.”